The Food Standards Agency is to examine the risk of BSE cross-contamination in dual-use abattoirs that slaughter over-thirty month cattle and cattle that enter the food chain. Currently no dual-use abattoirs are in operation (1).

This follows the publication today by the Royal Society of a report on the theoretical risk that prions, which cause BSE, may survive after sterilisation methods in the few abattoirs that are licenced for dual-use.

There are 8 such abattoirs out of 394 in the UK.

When they were operational the dual-use abattoirs were governed by strict European rules covering sterilisation processes and rules that prevented the slaughter of animals destined for the food chain being carried out on the same day in the same premises as over-thirty month cattle.

Sir John Krebs, Chairman of the Food Standards Agency said, " There are strict rules to prevent cross-contamination but these now need to be re-examined in the light of this new report. Only then can we assess the extent of the risk that may exist. The Royal Society make clear that in their view this is a theoretical risk, but it is one that we take seriously.

"We intend to complete our examination before these dual-use abattoirs restart their operations."

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NOTES TO EDITORS

  1. These abattoirs were suspended on 23 February 2001 because of foot and mouth restrictions.
  2. The over-thirty month rule prevents cattle that may be at risk of BSE entering the food chain.